Sanjay Jagatsingh

MPs from the PMSD and the Labour Party told the PM in parliament recently that if he presents a separate bill for an increased presence of women in our National Assembly (NA) they will vote for it. This is a very positive development given that we do pretty badly on this yardstick. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union at the start of 2019 four African countries ranked 12th or better as far as the proportion of female ministers in a cabinet go. Mauritius is 150th out of 178 spots while Rwanda takes position number six. We do slightly worse in terms of the percentage of women in parliament (156th out of 191 while Rwanda is first). But sadly the PM would have none of it replying that he can’t see why he should do something these MPs failed to do when they were in power. A pretty lame excuse but no surprise here as female representation is part of the wrapping of a poisonous electoral reform that will make throwing MPs out of parliament a lot more difficult.

After Saying No to a Referendum

He took a similar stand last December when he rejected the idea of organising a referendum for voters to validate the substantial changes he was proposing to our electoral setup — these would have turned Mauritius into an unstable autocracy — although Lepep had pledged to organise several of them in the electoral campaign of 2014. The reasons put forward for not fulfilling that pledge were not any better: it might not be practical; we’ve already talked about electoral reform for a long time; it is costly and we don’t do referendums for important decisions like the budget either. On the issue of practicality we should remember that the first time SAJ was elected in a general election was in 1963 and that by 2014 he had already been PM for 16 years. PJ himself had been Minister of Finance on two different occasions when the pledge was made. Not exactly what you would call newcomers who wouldn’t know that a basic thing like a referendum would be impractical but still include it in their manifesto. Besides law is not totally foreign to Collendavelloo.

Even Though Electoral Reform Got Sidetracked For Many Years

There has indeed been a lot of talk about electoral reform but much of it has been irrelevant. We got sidetracked for way too long because politicians have been trying to solve a non-PR setup, our FPTP system, with PR fixes while totally ignoring non-PR solutions which turn out to be way better. In any case some problems can linger for several years if the way we approach them is clumsy. A good example is road fatalities. As chart 1 illustrates we have not made any progress for three whole decades — for about half of that period we’ve been under the odious Sithanen 15% flat tax. Doesn’t mean we should sweep road fatalities under the rug, does it?

Referendums Are Way Cheaper Than Chronic Political Uncertainty

Referendums don’t come for free but they are a lot cheaper than the cost of the political uncertainty the Lepep proposal on electoral reform would create — proposals from the MMM and the Labour Party are as bad. As a matter of fact we may end up voting a lot more often than once every five years and our governments might not last more than a year. And given that the cost of a referendum is roughly equivalent to that of a general election (Rs300m) organizing a referendum on electoral reform would actually make us save a lot of money. And trouble. Plus we can ask 6-7 crucial questions in one referendum or about Rs50m a pop. Pretty cheap.

Fundamental Budgetary Policies Should Require Voter Permission

Finally, we don’t have to organise referendums — recall elections which would probably cost around Rs30m have become unavoidable — for budgets as long as there’s nothing blatantly stupid or detrimental to most of us in them. See taxing interest income that killed our savings culture was one such budgetary policy. This has set us back tremendously and by a lot more than the cost of a referendum. That was done to finance the economy-breaking 15% flat tax — another budgetary decision that should have needed the permission of voters — which was supposed to generate average growth rates of 8%. It didn’t and the government revenue shortfall has obviously been increasing since then. At this point it is useful to put things into perspective. Chart 2 does precisely that.

15% Flat-tax Promised A Debt-Free Mauritius

As you can see the government revenue shortfall at the end of last year had ballooned to Rs300bn. That’s one thousand times the cost of a referendum. And 10,000 times that of a recall election. Incidentally Rs300bn is larger than central government debt which means that lowering the corporate tax rate from twenty-something percent to 15% flat should have made us a debt-free country. Not only it didn’t, but public debt more than doubled since it was introduced and plenty of national problems have remained unsolved. Plus we’ve seen what happened in Curepipe, Fond du Sac and St. Paul. The only way to get better growth rates now, to put government finances on a sustainable track — we would regain our ability to pay for really really basic stuff like an eye-hospital and a radar — and to avoid increasingly frequent street protests is to increase corporate tax rates to at least 30%, raise top individual tax brackets to 35% or more and reduce VAT by a couple of percentage points.

A Good Roadmap

PJ should bring a separate bill so every party must have at least 1/3 of female candidates (bill should allow parties to have 100% female candidates for at least the next fifty years to compensate for the historical patriarchal bias) and collect some electoral dividends for it — something the tram will not allow him to do. A referendum should be organised on dose of PR and bigger parliament. Recall elections and two types of referendums should be added to our constitutional setup. The first type is for government to ask our permission or opinion on matters of national interest (like “do you want a dose of PR that will create chronic political instability and cause governments to take forever to form?”) and the other (statute referendums) for voters to reverse toxic policies like taxing interest income and totally pagla tax policies like a 15% flat tax. The PM should also jack up top corporate and individual tax rates.

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References

1. The Real Reason Politicians Want Dose of PR. HYPERLINK « https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2018/12/the-real-reason-politicians-want-dose.html »https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2018/12/the-real-reason-politicians-want-dose.html

2. How You Know the BLS is Not Subsumable. HYPERLINK « https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2018/12/how-you-know-bls-is-not-subsumable.html »https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2018/12/how-you-know-bls-is-not-subsumable.html

3. Lepep Had Promised Several Referendums. https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2018/11/lepep-had-promised-several-referendums.html

4. Getting A Handle On Electoral Reform Has Never Been Easier. HYPERLINK « https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2018/10/getting-handle-on-electoral-reform-has.html »https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2018/10/getting-handle-on-electoral-reform-has.html

5. December 2017 Likely To Be A Trailer For 2019. HYPERLINK « https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2017/11/december-17-likely-to-be-trailer-for.html »https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2017/11/december-17-likely-to-be-trailer-for.html

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8. Why Labour/MMM Alliance is Dangerous. HYPERLINK « https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2014/09/why-labourmmm-alliance-is-dangerous.html »https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2014/09/why-labourmmm-alliance-is-dangerous.html

9. Electoral Reform Made For Three. HYPERLINK « https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2014/06/electoral-reform-tailor-made-for-three.html »https://kozelidir.blogspot.com/2014/06/electoral-reform-tailor-made-for-three.html

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14. Recall Elections Are Key to Better Political Outcomes. https://morisk.blogspot.com/2018/04/recall-elections-is-key-to-better.html